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FILE-In this Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019 file photo, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis (11) works for a catch against Los Angeles Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman (23) during the second half the NFL football NFC championship game, in New Orleans. The Rams won 26-23. New Orleans Saints fans have found some pretty creative ways to express their displeasure over the infamous “no call” during last weekend’s Saints-Rams championship game. But their newest tactic may make the loudest statement - a Super Bowl boycott. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File) ORG XMIT: AX701

ATLANTA — It'll never happen.

Not today.

Not tomorrow.

Not ever.

But Nickell Robey-Coleman, the Los Angeles Rams defensive back responsible for the most controversial play in New Orleans Saints history, decided to at least give it a shot.

"I hope they forgive me one day," Robey-Coleman said Thursday.

He was referring to fans of the Saints, whom the Rams defeated 26-23 in overtime of the NFC championship game to punch their ticket to Atlanta.

Robey-Coleman's play, on which he hit Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis early and should have been flagged for pass interference and helmet-to-helmet contact, has made him one of the most talked-about players in this year's Super Bowl.

It's why media members have been just as anxious to crowd around him this week as they have been to talk to the more household names on the Rams' roster, like Aaron Donald and Jared Goff and Todd Gurley.

He admits the past 12 days at times have been "rough." Other times, he says it's been fun.

"It's been an experience to take in, good and bad," he said. "I've learned a lot. Learned about people, learned about media. Just seeing how America responded to one of the most controversial calls in league history. It was something to sit back and watch, just observing how everybody responded."


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Many fans who didn't know his name two weeks ago suddenly do.

And for those In New Orleans who despise hearing his name, he understands why.

"They are bitter right now because they feel like they should be in the Super Bowl," Robey-Coleman said. "They are fans and they support their city. You can't get mad at that."

And while Robey-Coleman knows there should have been a flag on the play, he doesn't think he's the one fans should be mad at.

"Talk to Roger and talk to the refs," he said, referring to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Goodell addressed the play Wednesday in Atlanta during his annual state-of-the-league address and admitted it was "a call that should have been made."

It was Goodell's first time talking about the play since it happened. Robey-Coleman, meanwhile, has had to talk about it every day. He's lost count of how many times he's been asked about it.

He says he even received one or two death threats on social media.

He was hit in the wallet, too. The NFL fined him $26,739 for the helmet-to-helmet contact on the play.

Robey-Coleman, in his second season with the Rams after playing his first four seasons in Buffalo, says he's probably a bit misunderstood, especially after the play.

"Definitely," he says.

So who exactly is this 27-year-old from the small town of Frostproof, Florida?

"I feel like I'm just a guy who is grateful," Robey-Coleman said. "I understand the position I'm in. I'm a family man. I'm a country boy — just 2,000 people in my city. I love fishing. Football is like a religion where I am from. I'm not the villain people try to make me to be."

He brought some of that scrutiny on himself, though.

He posted a video on social media shortly after the Saints game, boasting about the controversial play.

"Obviously I smacked his (expletive)," Robey-Coleman said on the video.

So there's that side of Coleman.

And there's the other more sensitive side of the guy whose mom, Maxine, died in his arms of a heart attack when he was 17 years old.

He went by just Nickell Robey then. Then, four years ago, he decided to  hyphenate his last name, tacking his mom's maiden name onto it.

"Just keeping that legacy going and letting it live on forever," he said. "I know I have a platform right now where it's exposed, so I wear it on my back with pride."

He knows his mom would be proud to see him in the Super Bowl.

"But she won't be as happy, because I haven't got my degree yet," he said. "But I'm working on that. After that, she'll be super proud of me. I'll feel accomplished."

He'll complete his degree in real estate development this semester at USC. But first things first — a chance to play in a Super Bowl. His controversial play is a big reason they are here and the Saints are not. 

And Saints fans will never forgive him for that. 


Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.